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7 Apr 2010 : Column 1424W—continued

Smuggling: Fuel Oil

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people have been convicted of offences relating to (a) fuel smuggling and (b) fuel laundering in Northern Ireland in the last 12 months. [325539]

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Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I have been asked to reply.

In 2008-09, 10 people were convicted of hydrocarbon oil offences in Northern Ireland. The legislation that covers the evasion or attempted evasion of duty on hydrocarbon oil is the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979, and this covers both fuel smuggling and fuel laundering offences.

Tackling fuel crime is a key priority for the Government. HM Revenue and Customs works in close partnership with other law enforcement agencies within the Organised Crime Task Force to disrupt fuel smugglers and launderers, bring them before the courts and confiscate their illegally acquired assets.

Ulster Scots Language

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what publications funded by his Department use the Ulster Scots language; and what the cost to the public purse was of providing such documents in the latest period for which figures are available. [325434]

Paul Goggins: The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has not funded any publications in the Ulster Scots language.

Work and Pensions


Mr. Pelling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if she will set out, with statistical evidence relating as closely as possible to Croydon, Central constituency, the effects on that constituency of her Department's policies since 2005. [325589]

Jonathan Shaw: DWP leads the Government's response to some of the biggest issues facing the country-welfare and pension reform-and is a key player in tackling child poverty(1). As the biggest delivery Department in the UK, DWP makes a difference to millions of people every day, helping them to lead safer, fairer and more rewarding lives that are free from poverty. We want to give people more choice and control over their lives and are committed to providing greater choice and personalised support to everyone who needs it so they have the opportunity to get into and remain in work. We believe that work works. Even in economically challenging times we know that work works for the most vulnerable and the disadvantaged.

Support to find work

Through Jobcentre Plus, we are promoting work as the best form of welfare for people of working age. Since February 2005, the number of people unemployed in Croydon, Central has increased by 66 per cent. to 3,365 and the number unemployed for more than one year has increased by 70 per cent. to 375. From August 2005 to August 2009 the number of lone parents claiming income support in Croydon, Central has fallen by 15 per cent. to 2,720.

Our new deals have helped lone parents, the young unemployed, the long-term unemployed, disabled people, the over-50s and partners of unemployed people to move from benefit into work. Since their inception over
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2.2 million people in Great Britain have found work with the support of the new deal, and 2,330 have been helped in Croydon, Central.

Support for children

We introduced a target to halve child poverty by 2010-11 on the way to eradicating it by 2020. Poverty is measured using a headline indicator of the proportion of children in households with an income below 60 per cent. of contemporary household median income before housing costs. This is in line with international best practice.

Statistics on the numbers of children living in poverty are not available at the constituency level.

Support for older people

Since 1997 our strategy has been to target help on the poorest pensioners while providing a solid foundation of support for all.

This year we will be spending over £13 billion more on pensioners than if we had continued with the policies that were in place in 1997. Around half of that money will go to the poorest third of pensioners.

In 1997 the poorest pensioners, who received income support, lived on £69 a week (£98 in today's prices). Today pension credit, which was introduced in 2003, means no pensioner needs to live on less than £130 a week, £198.45 for couples. As of August 2009, 4,860 pensioners in Croydon, Central are benefiting from pension credit.

In 2007-08 there were 900,000 fewer pensioners living in relative poverty in UK compared to 1998-99 (measured as below 60 per cent. of contemporary median household income after housing costs).

Statistics on the proportion of pensioners living in relative poverty are not available at constituency level, and Government office region level data are only available as three-year averages. The London Government office region can however be split into inner and outer London. The latest data for outer London cover the period 2005-08, and show that around 100,000 pensioners (or 19 per cent.) are in poverty (measured as below 60 per cent. of contemporary median household income after housing costs)(2).

Pensioners in the UK also benefit from a range of additional support such as the winter fuel payment which for winter 2009-10 is worth £250 for households with someone aged between 60-79 and £400 for households with someone aged 80 or over. These payments provide vital reassurance to older people that they can afford to turn up their heating during cold weather. Prior to winter 1997-98 less than £60 million per year was spent helping pensioners meet their fuel bills-we now spend around £2.7 billion on winter fuel payments alone. In winter 2008-09 (the last winter for which information is available) 19,360 people aged 60 and over benefited from winter fuel payments in Croydon, Central.

We have also taken steps to strengthen and protect the private pensions system to ensure people can continue to have confidence to save for their future through the establishment of the Pensions Protection Fund, the Financial Assistance Scheme and a more powerful and proactive pensions regulator.

The protection system ensures that, unlike in 1997, people are not left without a pension even in the event that their employer becomes insolvent.

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As at end of February a total of 516 people in the London Government office region are receiving compensation from the Pension Protection Fund (data not available at constituency level).(3)

We have also taken forward a radical package of pension reforms in the Pensions Acts of 2007 and 2008 which will deliver a fairer and more generous state pension and extend the opportunity of workplace pension saving to millions, many for the first time.

The state pension reforms begin to come into effect from 2010 and will mean around three quarters of women reaching state pension age in 2010 are expected to qualify for a full basic state pension compared to half without reform.

Support for disabled people and carers

Since 2001, we have significantly extended and improved civil rights for disabled people in areas such as employment, education, access to goods and services and transport. Disabled people in Croydon, Central will have benefited from these improvements. The Welfare Reform Act 2009 contains powers to increase choice and control for disabled adults, including disabled parents who are entitled to state support, enabling them to choose how certain state support is used to meet their individual needs. This will be trailblazed in eight local authority sites from late 2010. Older and less well off carers have gained extra help through the provisions within the National Carers Strategy.

Departmental ICT

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what disruption there has been to her Department's (a) Fraud Referral and Intervention Management System, (b) electronic records management and (c) Customer Information System since 22 January 2010. [325738]

Jim Knight: The information is as follows:

(a) Since 22 January 2010 there have been six instances of disruption to the FRAIMS system. The periods of disruption were:

(b) There has been no disruption to ERM since 22 January 2010.

(c) There has been no disruption to the Customer Information System since 22 January 2010.

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what testing of her Department's pensions uprating system was undertaken prior to its introduction on 26 March 2010; and what assessment she has made of the results. [325739]

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Angela Eagle: The computer system that pays state pension is updated annually to reflect the new rates payable from the following tax year. This year the rates were entered in December 2009 ahead of notifications being issued to customers from the beginning of this year. The rates are checked by the Pension, Disability and Carers Service and DWP Corporate IT before being uploaded on the system and a sample of the notifications were checked prior to distribution to customers. The new rates will be payable from 12 April 2010.

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether her Department has issued letters containing incorrect information to recipients of (a) basic state pension and (b) child benefit since 22 January 2010. [325741]

Angela Eagle: The Department for Work and Pensions and the Pension Disability and Carers Service write to vast numbers of our pensioner customers each day and we do our best to ensure that each and every letter is accurate. However, it is inevitable that from time to time errors do occur; when they do, we do our best to provide the correct information as soon as possible after the error is identified.

Child benefit is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Departmental Recruitment

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 4 March 2010, Official Report, column 1313W, on departmental consultants, what the monetary value of contracts was held by (a) her Department and (b) its (i) agencies and (ii) non-departmental public bodies with external recruitment consultants for the recruitment of temporary and permanent staff in each of the last three years. [322561]

Jim Knight: The spend on external recruitment consultants by the Department, its agencies and NDPBs in the last three financial years is as follows:

Spend (£ million)
Period DWP and a gencies NDPBs Total

April 2009 to February 2010 (to date)




April 2008 to March 2009




April 2007 to March 2008




Separation of DWP spend from that of its agencies could be achieved only at disproportionate cost.

These figures should be seen in the context of a total staff count of over 100,000.

The spend in the period April 2009 to February 2010 was unusually high reflecting the need to quickly recruit over 15,000 additional staff into Jobcentre Plus to meet the extra demands created by the economic downturn. This action has paid off; Unemployment is now expected to be around 700,000 lower in 2010 than in the Budget 2009. The savings in benefits across the five years 2010-11 to 2014-15 compared with what was assumed at Budget
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2009 is around £14 billion. This includes spend relating to housing benefit and council tax benefit as well as jobseeker's allowance. I expect the spend on external recruitment consultants for 2010-11 to be substantially lower.

The Department advertises all vacancies through Jobcentre Plus in addition to other methods. In line with common practice, we will incur expenditure when our recruitment involves an element of specialist executive search. The use of external agencies allows the Department to access the networking and contact with senior executives in different disciplines and organisations outside of the civil service.

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